It may be that your instructor is just trying to push you through your fear barrier, and that she feels once you take the first steps, you'll be okay. Sometimes it works that way.
However, if your reaction to being pushed that hard is to dig your heels in, maybe you need to work with another instructor for a while, at least until you get through the initial stages.
There are instructors that specialize helping riders overcame this kind of fear, it might be time to seek one out.
As far as the safety vest goes, yes, by all means, get a good one. They do protect you from certain types of injuries. My siblings bought me one after Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in a riding accident. The fact that Christophter Reever was wearing one when he was hurt, and it didn't prevent his particular mechanism of injury didn't matter. They wanted to do something to help me be safer. That's the point - good gear will make you safer, but nothing will make riding *safe*. You have to just take the precautions that make sense for your own risk/benefit analysis.
And please ignore the unhelpful people whose advice amounts to "Suck it up, buttercup." Your injury was significant, and both your physical and psychological fears are real. The fact that you are back on the horse, trying to work through these things, is brave and commendable. Obviously you are highly motivated to get back to your old riding level. You just need to find the right combination of factors (gear, horse, instructor, time, reassurance) to help you get there.
Last edited by maura; 02-20-2012 at 11:58 AM.